Friday, May 8, 2009

Fight Back Fridays: Let's Go Fair Trade

If you've been reading our blog for any length of time, you probably already know that we're huge supporters of "buying local". We love to see local businesses thrive -- and we also love to see our money funneled right back into our local economy. But, we must also admit that we buy some things (quite a number of things, actually) that aren't local.

In those cases, we try our best to support Fair Trade products. We buy fair trade coffee, chocolate, olive oil, palm & coconut oil, sugar, and bananas. We support businesses, like Dr. Bronner's and Jungle Products, in addition to a host of local perveyors that support fair trade practices (see below).

Some people think this effort is nothing more than touchy-feely-mumbo-jumbo (and others argue that Fair Trade practices are silly, at best, and harmful, at worst). I'd like to challenge that way of thinking by asking you to contemplate what Fair Trade is really all about.

Free trade around the globe is a great concept. International trade engenders continual innovation. It enables healthy competition and enables the creation of better products, better-paying jobs, new markets, and increased savings and investment. And what better way is there to share goods & services while maintaining a competitive advantage?

Well, the fact of the matter is the unregulated free trade in which we've been participating for years has actually caused numerous problems for both the United States and other nations. Companies have begun to move their operations overseas to minimize cost and maximize profits. Sweatshop labor has increased. Americans have lost jobs. Unregulated imported products (like toys, tuna, and dog food) have become unsafe. Just check out this article on Trade Deficit in Food Safety put out by the Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Fair trade, on the other hand, is a system of exchange created to regulate the free trade system. Fair trade is a social movement that creates partnerships between nations, ensures fair wages, and promotes decent working conditions.

A couple of common myths about Fair Trade include:
  • Fair trade results in sub-standard products (variation among artisan products is common, but fair trade products are consistently of high quality)
  • Fair trade products are more expensive (simply not true -- most products are competitively priced, if not cheaper, since no money goes to a "middle man")
Fair Trade promotes REAL systemic change -- by changing the way trade operates, and rewarding the workers who actually produce the goods we import. Fair trade promotes fair prices for high quality artisan goods.

Among the local (Milwaukee) businesses who offer fair trade products, here are a few of our favorite places to get fair trade foodstuffs:

Alterra Coffee
Beans & Barley Market, Deli, and Cafe
Omanhene Chocolate
Outpost Natural Foods Coop
Rishi Tea
Stone Creek Coffee

For those of you within throwing distance, I'd encourage you to check out the 2nd Annual Milwaukee Fair Trade Crawl, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday May 9th. The crawl includes more than 30 shops offering discounts, tastings, educational events and other specials. Organizers are actually hoping to set the record for the world's largest fair trade break. So JOIN US if you can!

Do you support Fair Trade? If so, what are some of your favorite Fair Trade products?

This post is submitted as part of Fight Back Fridays, a weekly event hosted by Food Renegade featuring great, educational blog posts from those of us who opt out of the industrialized food system, distrust standard nutritional advice, and embrace Real Food. There are some great posts going on this week... check them out!

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens


  1. I ALWAYS make it a point to buy Fair Trade coffee at the very least - it's one the most "unfair" industries in the world and if I am plowing through 3 bags a month, I better be damn sure the people who are giving me the good coffee I'm drinking are getting paid well.

  2. Yes Yes Yes! This is such good stuff! We get our coffee from a local roaster- EVERYTHING is rganic, fair trade and rain forest alliance certified. They roasted my beans on Tuesday mrning and I had them on Wednesday afternoon. YUMMY!! If anyone is intrested- these guys KNOW coffee- Trager Brothers Coffee Roasters. The thing that sets then apart is that all of their stuff is fair trade not just a couple of blends- and they roast everything "a mano"- ie they don't stick it in a machine push a button and walk away...I also like Dr B's

  3. I Agree- thanks so much for this succinct and informative post :)

    I support fair trade coffee (organic and fair trade- cafe femenino- where a percentage of the profits goes to a local woman's program; a total pay it forward way it's wonderful and tasty!)
    and fair trade organic sugar and chocolate :)

    Unfortunately I have seen "far wage-fair labour" statements without any certification... it's so hard to get real answers without a third party.

    Awesome :) (ps- my fiance loves your blog title!! )

  4. I once read a quote by someone (I think it was Vandana Shiva) who said that the international "free trade" we have actually squashes or completely eliminates REAL free trade at the local level.

    Think of it this way. Corn in the U.S. is subsidized. That means that taxpayers pick up a hefty portion of the costs for growing corn. That means that the U.S. can sell corn in other countries (like Peru) for less than the cost of a native Peruvian to grow it.

    Naturally, the native Peruvian does what his pocketbook dictates and buys the cheaper American corn. In so doing, he drives his local Peruvian farmers out of business. Those farmers are not "free" to compete in the marketplace.

    The point?

    There's nothing "free" about what passes as "free trade" today.

    Thanks for this fantastic post, and for sharing it with everyone in today's Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  5. Thanks, this is such important information. Once again, great post and a perfect subject for "Fight Back Friday."

  6. There's a wonderful Fair Trade coffee shop in Ottawa that is a favorite meeting place for a group of my friends. Not only is the coffee there good, but it's a great place to support.

  7. thanks for the information on fair trade!

  8. This was a great and informative post! I haven't found much in the way of Fair Trade in my Natural Food store except for coffee. But I'm hoping that changes!

  9. I'm all for fair trade and I hate it when big corporate lobbyists constantly persuade our politicans not to encourage it because of their fear that they will actually have to pay decent wages.

    I stopped wearing Nike sneakers years ago because I learned about their labor practices. I also make sure I buy Fair Trade chocolate.

  10. Thank you for this post -- this is such an important thing. I suspect that many of your readers are already FT-aware, but it's good to keep the notion on the radar. I seek out Fair Trade and otherwise sustainably and fairly produced things, so I use quite a few, but my current favorite is Kuva Coffee. They even have one bean that's a direct purchase from the farmer. Great coffee! I'm really looking forward to learning new things from your readers' comments. Thanks again for this!

  11. Great post!!! I am in agreement with you here - if I can't get it local, I try my best to find fair trade, and I agree the quality is the highest!

  12. I need to go read this. I didn't know tuna was unsafe!

  13. Thank you for the information. I had a general idea what it was but no true knowledge. I'm going to look into it more. I take it that the "fair trade products" are labeled as such.

  14. My son, who has a PhD in economics, keeps telling me that global trade is good, because everyone gets more stuff for less money. I think there are a whole bunch of auto workers, steel workers and other unskilled laborers who are now reduced to lawn mowing, sweeping floors and manning the aisles at "Big Box" stores. No one wants to admit that there are people who just don't belong in college, either because they're not bright enough or too lazy to do the work, and that includes one of my brilliant sons, by the way, and there are no decent jobs left for that type of people. They all went overseas to sweatshops. Some things can't be grown or made locally, like coffee or bananas in my cold climate or maple syrup in Florida, but I do try to buy locally wherever possible. This is a mind boggling debate, isn't it?

  15. We love Dean's Beans coffees. He's also got a great book called JavaTrekker that really shows you what Fair Trade is all about.

  16. Thanks for all this wonderful info. I'll be more careful when picking up coffee beans. :)


We're thrilled that you came to visit us here at BURP! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. We're not always able to respond to every comment, but we'll make every effort to answer questions in a timely fashion. We especially enjoy reading about what's going on in your own creative kitchens. So, don't be shy!

And thanks for stopping by!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.